UNITED NATIONS — Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban for promoting education for girls, will celebrate her 16th birthday today addressing the United Nations.
The U.N. has declared July 12 “Malala Day,” and to mark the occasion the teen, who returned to school in March after medical treatment in Britain for injuries suffered in the October attack, will address more than 500 young leaders from around the world at a Youth Assembly.
UNESCO and Save the Children released a special report entitled “Children Battling To Go To School,” ahead of Malala’s speech.
The report found that 95 percent of the 28.5 million children who aren’t getting a primary school education live in low and lower-middle income countries — 44 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 19 percent in south and west Asia and 14 percent in the Arab states.
Girls make up 55 percent of the total and are often the victims of rape and other sexual violence that accompanies armed conflicts.
The study found that in 2012 there were more than 3,600 documented attacks on education, including violence, torture and intimidation against children and teachers resulting in death or grave injuries, as well as the shelling and bombing of schools and the recruitment of school-aged children by armed groups.
“Across many of the world’s poorest countries, armed conflict continues to destroy not just school infrastructure, but also the hopes and ambitions of a whole generation of children,” UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova said.